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Why Is The Water Green?
Monday, August 26, 2019
  By: Kingsdale Animal Hospital  In: Pet Health

Why Is The Water Green?

Blue-Green Algae - A Fatal Summer Toxin

Have you noticed any ponds or marsh areas coated in a layer of green slime? This is common in North America in the late summer and is due to Blue-Green Algae. This is toxic to animals and people, and thus people and animals should never swim in or drink this water. There have been a number of dogs that have died in the USA this summer from ingestion of blue-green algae.

Blue-green algae is also known as cyanobacteria. It forms in warm, standing water and is very common in the summertime in North America. The water may have a blue shimmer to it, a foul smell, or may look like green paint is smeared across the surface. The water may look like pea soup due to its distinct colour. This is from the algae colonizing into a "bloom". Sometimes it is more subtle and difficult to see, however. Therefore you should always take caution in allowing your pets to come in contact with standing water.

The most common methods of contact are swimming (contact with skin or eye) and ingestion (drinking the water or licking it off their fur). Symptoms of toxicity appear within minutes of ingestion and include:

Skin and eye irritation
Blood in stool or black, tarry stool
Excessive salivary secretions
Difficulty breathing
Shock or coma
Pale gums or blue, discoloured gums
Neurologic signs (tremoring or seizures)
Liver failure (one notable sign is jaundice, or a yellow discolouration of the skin and eyeballs)

If you suspect your dog has been exposed to blue-green algae, it is extremely important to get him or her to a vet clinic immediately! Unfortunately there is no antidote or reversal agent, but once the condition is diagnosed the clinic can try to support the liver and prevent liver failure. However, if enough blue-green algae is consumed, it can be fatal regardless of medical efforts. Therefore it is best to avoid contact (by you, your family, and your pets) of any green, slimy water this summer!

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